By Anna Gustafson
The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria has been reborn as a world-class institution that highlights Queens’ crucial role in the entertainment business thanks to a $67 million, two-year expansion that doubled the size of the building and added a theater, education center and gallery space.
“The inauguration of this building, almost 30 years to the day after this institution was founded, brings to a close our early history while opening a major new chapter in the museum’s life,” Moving Image Director Rochelle Slovin said at the museum’s dedication ceremony last week. “We are able as never before to illuminate screen culture in all its variety, as both art and industry, for New Yorkers of every age and for our visitors from around the globe.”
The museum, which was originally founded in 1981, officially reopened to the public Saturday after being closed for almost two years. Hundreds of elected officials, film industry representatives and residents attended a dedication ceremony for the renovated facility at 35th Avenue and 37th Street last Thursday.
The $67 million expansion project, $54.7 million of which came from the city, enabled the museum to grow to 97,700 square feet from 50,000 and add such new features as a 267-seat main theater; a screening room; an amphitheater; the Ann R. and Andrew H. Tisch Education Center, which will annually allow about 60,000 students from Queens and throughout the city to learn about different media; and a gallery that will feature changing exhibitions.
“New York has long been at the center of visual media development, so it’s fitting that the nation’s only institution dedicated to its exploration continues to thrive and expand in the city,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “The museum’s state-of-the-art expansion in Astoria will allow it to provide new exhibition and screening space and the capacity to double the number of students that its education center serves.”
The long line of dignitaries who spoke at Thursday’s dedication noted that it is especially appropriate that the museum is in Queens, particularly because the western part of the borough has long played an important role in the city’s film history, which stretches back into the silent film era before the dominance of Hollywood. Countless movies and television shows have been made at the nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios at 34-12 36th St. and Silvercup Studios at 42-22 22nd St. in Long Island City, including “30 Rock,” “The Sopranos,” “Sesame Street” and Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works.”
“Queens is a major headquarters for motion pictures with Kaufman Astoria Studios and Silvercup Studios here, which is why it’s so important to maintain this museum,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “I am so proud to have this in the borough of Queens.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who chairs the Council Cultural Affairs Committee, said the Museum of the Moving Image had been one of the main catalysts for the revival of the neighborhood where he grew up.
“This area has been transformed, and the museum is so critical to how this part of the city has been transformed,” Van Bramer said.
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) echoed Van Bramer’s statement.
“A lot has happened because the museum is here,” Comrie said. “You can look down 37th Street and see all the new restaurants here.”
To mark its reopening, the museum will present a six-week program titled “Celebrating the Moving Image,” which runs from Jan. 15 to Feb. 20 and features screenings, appearances by leaders in the entertainment business and performances to showcase the new space.
Two of the highlights of the upcoming programming include the films “Play Time” by director Jacques Tati and “2001: A Space Odyssey” by director Stanley Kubrick. They will be shown in the restored 70 mm high-resolution format in which the original films were shot. The museum’s new 264-seat theater can play films at resolution ranging from Super 8 to 70 mm. “Play Time” will be shown Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. and “2001: A Space Odyssey” on the same day at 4 p.m.
The new theater also has an orchestra pit. To show it off, the silent film “L’Argent” will also be shown with live music played by the Mont Alto Orchestra, which played with the film at the Telluride Film Festival. A similar treatment will be done for John Ford’s recently found film “Upstream.” “L’Argent” will play Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. “Upstream” will play Jan. 30 at 5 p.m.
For more information, visit the museum’s website at https://movingimage.us.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.